Landscapes, Narratives, and Tropical Nature by Ineke Phaf-Rheinberge that talks about the colonial period, specifically the conflicts between the creole modernity and tropical nature. Rheinberger argues that the conflicts within Suriname were, as a result, the relationship between the tropical interior and the metropolis. This paper assesses the importance of several characters in the story such as Wilhelmina Rijburg, Kankantri and Elisabeth Samson, finding out whether it is polyphonic or polysemous.
Elisabeth Samson is discussed in the essay. She was a free black woman born of slave parents in Paramaribo in the year 1715. She then becomes rich and controversial because she married a rich European plantation owner. Her husband’s wealth and status made her access the highest cycles within colonial society. Samson then became an inspiration for the black women for being the wealthiest woman and because she had made many accomplishments that could be admired by people. Marrying a rich husband made Samson be the wealthiest woman in Paramaribo. It was impossible for the women of colour in the society to be rich and successful. However, the new status made Samson lose her heritage and was not able to connect with her people. According to Cynthia McLeod, Samson “dies of despair when she realizes that there is a lack of meaning in her life.”
The other character in the essay is Wilhelmina Rijburg, who was also referred to as Maxi Linder. She was a prostitute who lived in Waterkant in the twentieth century. She changed her name from Wilhelmina Rijburg to Maxi Linder because the prostitute had the habit of changing their names to protect their true identities. Linder got into the high class in her own way despite the fact that she was not married to an elite like Samson. McLeod notes that being a prostitute made Linder access the secrets of many elite families which gave her a sense of power. She managed to break various barriers.
On page 233, Stedman talks about the Kankantri, which is a large wild cotton tree that is used as a place of worship and protection by the groups on the coast of guinea. It is at one point compared to the Bible. It is important to the people just the way the Bible is important to the Christians.
Polyphony refers to two or more melodies that are found within a given musical composition and can be combined in the formation of a complete sound. The story is made up of two important concepts to give one idea that communicates to the readers, which is a form of polyphony in literature.
Polysemy, on the other hand, refers to the existence of many possible meanings for a phrase. Kankantri is one example of polysemy in the essay. Some people see it is as a mere tree as the other people view it as an important place of worship.
Phaf-Rheinberger, I. (2005). Landscapes, Narratives, and Tropical Nature. Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture, 225.